Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Word Lord written by Steven Hall and directed by Ken Bentley

What’s it about: In a top secret military bunker deep beneath the Antarctic ice a mysterious death threatens peace negotiations and could spell disaster for the inhabitants of Earth. Can the Doctor cross the t's and dot the i's? Or will his efforts get lost in translation?

The Real McCoy: He’s self employed and sounds affronted that anybody would suggest otherwise. Frankly I cannot imagine a more perfect time for the Doctor to show but ten minutes after a delegate is killed! There is a reward on the Doctor’s head like you wouldn’t believe and Nobody has been pursuing him throughout his last handful of adventures, almost catching up with him when people use the word forty five. The Dalek Supreme is offering a fortune for him but the only reward Nobody needs is the way his little eye stalk lights up. The Daleks want him dead but the Cybermen (who also have a substantial reward on him) want his brain left intact. So he plans to take the brain out, sew the head back up and everybody gets what they want. Except the Doctor who will be dead with his brain missing. In a very funny moment the Doctor prepares to spring his trap only to find that Hex is listening – egg on his face!

Oh Wicked: Thinks the TARDIS is programmed to hone in on trouble! Ace is furious when Nobody massacres the delegates under her protection, I don’t think anybody has made her feel quite this impotent before. He takes the piss out of her wonderfully, calling her plucky and saying it has been an age since anybody has told him what to do. Hex makes the very reasonable observation that she doesn’t have to be horrible all the time.

Sexy Scouse: Why don’t they ever crash a really good party rather than blundering in on crisis after crisis? I love it when he plays nurse with Ace, she fights off his advances but he is insistent and gentle with her.

Standout Performance: Paul Reynolds gives a cheeky and sadistic turn as Nobody No One, one part madman, one part child but with a real burning intelligence at the heart of him.

Sparkling Dialogue:Forty five minutes to find an impossible killer and save the Earth then?’ – unlike the other writers who slip their numerical reference in nonsensically, he plants it right at the heart of the story in the most dramatic fashion possible.
‘One wrong word would let him out again’ – I cannot wait.
‘Alright Nobody move!’

Great Ideas: The Ranulf Fienes bunker in 2045 is a top secret peace facility at the height of the Second Cold War. One of the most secure facilities on the face of the Earth with state of the art monitoring systems and procedures and to get away with murder here you would have to be a ghost. Considering one of the delegates has wound up dead we have an intriguing mystery on our hands. They wipe and reboot their system every forty five hours, that way they can remain top secret and monitor everything. The TARDIS is described to the delegates as a highly sophisticated panic room so imagine their dismay when they discover it is little more than a wooden box. There are some dimension that are so different to ours as to be incomprehensible and the beings from those realms are never supposed to come to ours. A complex chameleon meme or a vessel for a literate being disguised as a joke – this is very clever stuff. A non physical TARDIS with a non physical pilot. He’s a renegade Word Lord from a reality 45 billion dimensions to the left of here. In an astonishing moment of unfairness Captain Hurst tries to kill Nobody but because of the TARDIS his weapon is rendered useless whereas Nobody is from another dimension so the Temporal Grace doesn’t work on him and he shoots him dead. They are beings from a dimension made of language and communication. Nobody could do any of things that people have said as soon as they said that he couldn’t – ‘Nobody can get into the TARDIS.’ Nobody is a bounty hunter and has a list of the most powerful people in the multiverse. He finds them, beats them and ticks them off the list and now he has come for the Doctor. Set to reverse the TARDIS began translating the words and even the thoughts of everyone in the bunker into a language they couldn’t understand and as soon it restarted the Doctor reset the bunkers computer system deleting every word. With no spoken language or even thought to support them both Nobody was forced to take refuge in the only printed text for hundreds of miles – the protocol guide.

Audio Landscape: Delegates arguing amongst themselves, Ace on the walkie-talkie, the astonishing sequences that sees the overlapping of the number forty five, Nobody No-One shooting down the delegates in the TARDIS, guns cocked.

Musical Cues: An insistent militant score makes this the most memorable of the collection.

Standout Scene: The Doctor’s very clever solution to the Word Lord’s presence cocked up by military grunt barking orders sets up A Death in the Family perfectly…

Result: Steven Hall marks himself out as an immediate audio talent by grasping hold of his limited running time and kicking off The Word Lord with an immediately arresting opening and a plot which dashes off and leaves the audience panting to catch up. Like …ish this is a clever piece of storytelling that uses language skilfully and proves that you don’t need lots of noise to make a thrilling audio but some clever ideas and imagination. Nobody No One is a truly malevolent creation and insidiously uses our own language against us and the Doctor has to really think through his strategy against such a strong opponent. Top marks for ending this anthology on such a dramatic high and leaving plenty of opportunities for a rematch, I for one cannot wait to listen to A Death in the Family now. Magnificent: 10/10

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